Boys Get Hard and Boys Get Hurt

I’ve got a rare Sunday post up at Good Men Project this week: Yes, Rape Victims Get Erections, Too. I look at the myths we have about boys who are sexually abused by older women. Excerpt:

The myth that men are invulnerable to sexual victimization at the hands of women is a powerful one. It sits alongside several other myths. For one, we have a hard time believing that grown women could be attracted to adolescent boys (while we accept as normal the idea that grown men are sexually fixated on teen girls.) Second, we have a hard time acknowledging that guys are every bit as emotionally vulnerable as their sisters, just as easily traumatized by a predatory adult. Young men may indeed be horny (as are more young women than we sometimes admit), but a strong libido doesn’t functional as psychological armor.

But perhaps the most enduring myth brought up by cases like this is the idea that pleasure is incompatible with victimization. Real victims only feel pain, never arousal – or so far too many people still believe. An erection, or better still, ejaculation, functions as proof that a boy wasn’t really harmed. Most predators who molest children and underage teens know this; many sexual abusers go to great lengths to try to arouse their victims. The child’s pleasure functions as a kind of absolution in the mind of the abuser; “I can’t be that bad if I made them feel good!”

But of course, an orgasm isn’t evidence of consent. As decades of research have shown us, a surprising number of male and female victims of sexual abuse do report having experienced some physical pleasure while they were being molested. That memory of arousal can lead to greater feelings of guilt, as it seems proof in a child’s mind that he (or she) was somehow complicit in what happened. “Part of me enjoyed it, so I must have wanted it,” the thinking goes. Some therapists who work with survivors of abuse say that these cases are often the most difficult to treat.

One thought on “Boys Get Hard and Boys Get Hurt

  1. Having treated both boys and girls and women (few men) who were survivors of sexual abuse and rape, I can tell you the “arousal/orgasm” factor is absolutely the most difficult piece to address and work through. Sadly, even some of my colleagues will get sidetracked by that factor and, depending on the age of the survivor, wonder if there was an element of consent involved.
    One aspect of my work I’ve found fascinating are the number of young women I’ve worked with who told me that it was easier to work through it with me than female therapists they’ve had.
    Whether that is due to my presence and therapy style or more a function of needing to work through with a man, I don’t know. I haven’t seen much research on success rates for female vs male therapists, but I think that may be due to male therapists being cautious going into that arena.

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